Trying to find a word which will describe the slow process of the absorption of a ship by the sea. Metaphysical words are also welcome.

Sea water swallowed the ship.

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    Looks like a typo for walloped to me. Jun 5, 2015 at 10:06
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    Hi hrex, you need to include your research here. Please tell us what you found in the dictionary and how doesn't that help.
    – Tushar Raj
    Jun 5, 2015 at 10:07
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    @hrexen: So you're trying to find an ideal word, rather than being interested in the correct usage of wallowed. If that's the case, you should edit your question to specify that.
    – Tushar Raj
    Jun 5, 2015 at 10:16
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    swamped / engulfed But stylistically 'The sea gradually ... the little boat' would be better. Jun 5, 2015 at 10:22
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    @hrexen: A ship wallows in water, (which is completely different than sinking). Water doesn't wallow the ship. It might, figuratively speaking, swallow the ship.
    – Tushar Raj
    Jun 5, 2015 at 10:23

7 Answers 7


The suggestion by Edwin Ashworth of engulfed gets at it. Synonyms of engulfed include swamped, submerged, submersed, immersed, innundated, consumed, overwhelmed, enveloped, swallowed up...

Online etymologies have this to say about engulfed:

Late 14c., "profound depth," from Old French golf "a gulf, whirlpool," from Italian golfo "a gulf, a bay," from Late Latin colfos, from Greek kolpos "bay, gulf of the sea," earlier "trough between waves, fold of a loose garment," originally "bosom," the common notion being "curved shape."

This is from PIE *kwelp- "to arch, to vault" (compare Old English hwealf, a-hwielfan "to overwhelm"). Latin sinus underwent the same development, being used first for "bosom," later for "gulf" (and in Medieval Latin, "hollow curve or cavity in the body"). The geographic sense "large tract of water extending into the land" (larger than a bay, smaller than a sea, but the distinction is not exact and not always observed) is in English from c. 1400, replacing Old English sæ-earm. Figurative sense of "a wide interval" is from 1550s.

My apologies for wasting an "anwer" when a comment would have been more appropriate but I'm too new to this SE to be able to comment.

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    this is perfectly appropriate as an answer. Jun 5, 2015 at 12:56
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    Note that, though an etymology is useful for showing the history and the hidden connotations (those that currently exist but you didn't realize), it can be misleading in the sense that the current meaning has, so to speak, moved on. For example, 'tale' means a short story, but comes from roots that mean counting; seeing the etymology we think 'Ohhh... how interesting, a tale is like counting in order some events'. But the current meaning of 'tale' has very little of 'counting by numbers in it if at all.
    – Mitch
    Jun 5, 2015 at 13:08
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    Anyway, good first answer.
    – Mitch
    Jun 5, 2015 at 13:09
  • @Mitch I'm curious about "hidden connotations." Can you say more about how you would go about doing this? What kind of expertise is required to uncover them? What resources would you access to develop them? Is this worth posting a question on this site for wider answers?
    – DJohnson
    Jun 5, 2015 at 13:43
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    @JoeBlow Your comments seem to be a little extreme. Please show some restraint and politeness. Also, a quick google search of dictionaries shows a number of synonyms of 'engulfed' with water connotations.
    – Mitch
    Jun 5, 2015 at 16:13

The word "swallow" might not be perfect on its own. However the verb plus adjective combination "swallowed up", would work just fine. Here's a quote from the novel Cambell's Reivers:

When the misted waters swallowed up the ship and its occupants, she bowed her head and slowly returned ...

And here's more examples from Googlebooks.


If you're concerned that swallow is incorrect here, don't be. It's perfectly acceptable and even sees common usage. When a ship sinks on the open sea, it's often described as having been "swallowed by the waves", or it can be said that "the waves swallowed the ship". This makes sense if you imagine the sight of waves washing over a slowly descending wreck. To me, it's similar to the sight of lips closing over food, or teeth chewing.

  • Indeed. or, it could be that conversely, a huge wave (perhaps) "engulfed" the boat. this is utterly different from the ocean swallowing a sinking boat. you might as well say that swallow (with your mouth) and lick mean the same thing.
    – Fattie
    Jun 5, 2015 at 15:46
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    I am concerned with swallow, as I want to emphasize the slowness of the process and how hard the ship goes down. Just imagine that something goes into tar. I am looking for a word which describes this picture.
    – dmayilyan
    Jun 5, 2015 at 21:54

Noun 1. foundering - (of a ship) sinking

  • going under
  • ship - a vessel that carries passengers or freight
  • sinking - a descent as through liquid (especially through water); "they still talk about the sinking of the Titanic"

From The Free Dictionary.

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    I have cleared comments on this question as they had degenerated into bickering. Users are referred to our be nice and referencing policies.
    – waiwai933
    Jun 6, 2015 at 3:48

The word I usually use is 'sink'



Include or absorb (something) in something else

Example (describing the sinking of Henry VIII’s vice-flagship the Mary Rose)

Henry VIII, watching the battle from nearby Southsea Castle, heard the screams of the drowning men as he watched the pride of his fleet being subsumed by the waves.

Another example (describing the sinking of the WWII submarine, the SS Sea Thrush)

Water covered her decks as far as the number two hatch, near where the first torpedo struck. One can imagine the men idling nearby on the still sea, watching their erstwhile home and workplace slowly – even peacefully – subsumed by the sea, leaving them with an inch or less of wood between them and the same fate.


The word you're looking for is


by the sea.

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